Sunday, April 19, 2009

Harry Kalas, R.I.P.

In the spring of 1965, a friend named Ruben Garcia told me he listened to Houston Astros baseball games on the radio. I didn't like baseball and didn't listen much to the radio, but for some reason what he told me caused me to tune in. Almost immediately, I got hooked, and my brother Joe soon got hooked, too. For several years, Astros' radio broadcasts were the soundtrack to our summers. Every night, we would tune in the game on KNAL, the local AM station, sometimes out on the screen porch, usually in our room. When we were away from home, we would search desperately for a signal, sometimes sitting out at night in the mosquito-infested car because the car radio could pull in WWL ("Way down yonder in New Orleans") when all else failed.

When the Astros played on the West Coast, we would lie in bed with the lights out, listening to games from San Francisco and Los Angeles. I vividly remember Willie Mays at the bat in extra innings one late night, no doubt saying to himself, "This game ends here," then fouling off a half-dozen pitches before hitting a game-ending home run. We heard back-to-back no-hitters (Jim Maloney and Don Wilson) and followed Joe Morgan's rookie year on his way to the Hall of Fame. One memorable night, we fell asleep during a home game against the Mets and woke up hours later, with the game still playing on the radio. The Astros finally won, 1-0, in 24 innings, 41 years ago last week.

Gene Elston, a consummate pro who is now in his 80s, was the anchor of that broadcast crew, with Loel Passe, who died in 1997, as the No. 2 man and Harry Kalas, just two years into his first big league job, calling a couple of the middle innings each night. Last week, Kalas, 73, died. But I have missed his voice for a long, long time.


jcurmudge said...

Relatives (youth) have mentioned their sadness on the death of Kalas, and how much the will miss his broadcasts of the Orioles.

Ken & Carol said...

Thanks for the reminiscence David. It reminded me to get going on my own obituary.

Dave Rye said...

Doesn't curmudge mean Phillies?

Kirk Dooley said...

Kalas' passing means there are fewer and fewer good play-by-play guys left (Harry Carry, Jack Buck, Phil Rizzuto, Mel Allen, Bob Prince -- all have passed on in the last several years, and their replacements have been found wanting). Vin Scully is the last of the breed, and even though he's been at it for almost 60 years now, he looks like he could go on for another 20 years of so. (He's outlasted Ross Porter, Connie Desmond, and Don Drysdale in the Dodger booth).

Here in Arizona, we finally got rid of Thom Brenneman (who made every pitch sound like the end of the world), but replaced him with Darren Sutton (son of Don), who came over from Milwaukee. Most folks I know turn the TV sound down and listen to the radio, where Greg Schutze is the voice (even though his home run call: "Warning track, wall, touch 'em all," is a bit lame).

Annie said...

Missing Harry the K is like a burn that hurts worse with time. I think it will be tougher come this summer when no matter how I work the dial, I won't find his voice suddenly coming though the AM sizzle.

Harry understood baseball was supposed to be a fun past time....and didn't rattle off stats just to fill the air waves.

In those years he worked with "his Whitness", Richie Ashburn, we would tune just to hear them!
We will not see or hear thier like again.